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Political Inter-play Characterizing Liberia Runoff Election... Where Will It End?

When the National Elections Commission (NEC) began announcing the results of the October 11 polls, the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) began crying foul for what they alleged as election irregularities by some member/workers of NEC. Prior to the conduct of the October 11 polls, CDC had directly accused NEC Chairman, James Fromayan of allegedly being a member of the ruling Unity Party (UP) and that he would not conduct the election fairly to the satisfaction of all political parties.

This qualm with the NEC Chairman, has led the CDC to call for his resignation and other members of the commission before the conduct of the runoff. According to CDC, until their demand for the resignation of Fromayan and others are met, they remain resolute in their decision to boycott the November 8 runoff election.

Though NEC had earlier admitted some irregularities for which about 400 ballots were recounted, the commission on account of the allegation of massive fraud during the first round of the election has asked the CDC to produce evidence substantiating the allegation.

While the process is ongoing, the National Elections Commission having completed the counting of ballots and announced runoff for both CDC and the ruling Unity Party is again finding itself in blunder following a letter written to the two leading parties informing them about the runoff.

The letter written to the CDC instead of mentioning the total votes received during the election, indicated to CDC that the Unity Party received the total votes of 394,370 which constitutes 32%, noting that the Congress for Democratic Change received the highest votes tallied so far.

At a hastily organized press conference in Monrovia on 27 October 2011, NEC Chairman James Fromayan admitted the error and said it originated from the Press and Public Affairs arm of the Commission, which has led to the dismissal of the Communication Director Bobby Livingstone and the suspension of his Deputy Nathan Mulbah.

Mr. Fromayan under this embarrassment has however said regardless of the error, the results of the October 11 presidential election still stand at 530,020 that constitutes 43.9% for the ruling Unity Party while 394,370 that constitutes 32.7% stands for CDC.

This communication error has not only brought dark cloud over the work of NEC in this critical time of the country's history, but has also created the condition that will form basis for opposition to gain more ground and oppose the runoff election that the CDC has received to boycott.

In the wake of this event, the Vice Standard-bearer of the Congress for Democratic Change, former Football Star George Weah has instructed NEC not to print them on any ballot for runoff. Even though NEC has announced the arrival of 2.6 million ballot papers into the country for the runoff, the CDC founder whose popularity overshadows the standard-bearer has said they are not taking part in the runoff and would not consider Ellen Johnson Sirleaf President of Liberia if re-elected.

In fact, information circulating in some local dailies in Monrovia indicates that plan is underway for an interim government to take over from Ellen with George Weah becoming the head for a period of one year so that Liberia can have another election.
In addition to Weah's call, the National Secretary General for CDC and House of Representative elect, Acarus Moses Gray, has openly stated that if Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is re-elected President of Liberia, those of the CDC will have their portion of people to rule while Unity Party will have its own to contend with, meaning that they will not honor that government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but would remain contumacious to the state.

This statement that critics refer to as treasonable statement could not only cause uncertainty in the minds of Liberians who are yearning for peaceful election, but manifested itself on October 28 by bringing activities at some point to a standstill in Monrovia.

Near the Capitol Bypass on October 28 precisely at the 18th hour GMT, there was a speculation that for the statement Gray made he was being ordered arrested by state security. In response, a group of CDC supporters converged at the area and stalled the flow of traffic for almost an hour, insisting that any attempt on the part of government to arrest Gray would lead to CDC and UP war, and that UP would become seriously victimized.

Later, government announced that there has been no arrest warrant issued to have Acarus Gray arrest and the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led administration was not in the position to create the room for people of no relevance to gain political relevance. This announcement coupled with Gray going without arrest contrary to the speculation circulated earlier, restored the hope of Liberians dwelling in Monrovia to have a night of sleep.

However, in the midst of this threat of boycott; the standard-bearer of the party, Cllr. Winston Tubman has proven his innocence in the whole situation. Cllr. Tubman who had told the media earlier that CDC was prepared to go in the runoff with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said he and Weah including executives of CDC have not had any talks of boycotting the runoff election.
While CDC is resolving to boycott the election on November 8 following the announcement of second round of campaign, the Unity Party is seriously campaigning and other political leaders who contested the October 11 election are lending their support to Ellen for a second term.

Politicians including Dr. Togba Nah-Tipoteh of the Freedom Alliance Party, Cllr. Marcus Jones of Victory for Change, and Cllr. Chea Chepo of the Progressive People's Party have given their support to Ellen for second term.

In separate statements issued in Monrovia, the political leaders said for the sake of Liberia and where they think Liberia can go in the next years, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the best candidate who can control the steering of the nation’s affairs.
Earlier, the National Union for Democratic Progress (NUDP) flag-bearer, Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson had given his support to Madam Sirleaf with people of his county lauding him for making such a decision.

This decision by the Nimba County Senator is one factor many in various quarters presume to have brought silence in CDC camp for the past weeks. Two Sundays ago CDC and some nine opposition political parties decided to stage a peaceful march in Monrovia to protest the results of the October 11 election, but disappointingly for them, Senator Johnson who they expected to lead the march did not show up.

On the following Monday, October 17, Senator Johnson announced that he was supporting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The wave of confusion arising over the results of the election subsequently followed by threat of boycott is bringing uncertainty in the minds of many Liberians who were victims of fourteen years of civil strife. Already while the day for the second round of election is approaching, many have fled the country while some took precautionary refuge to their villages.
In spite of the threat being posed on the security of the country at this time as a result of suspicion of electoral fraud, the international community has praised the election and described it 'credible'.

In the midst of the political uncertainties surrounding the runoff, the NEC chair finally resigned his position with just 10 days left for the runoff stating he did so in the supreme interest of Liberia. The CDC Standard-bearer at press conference welcomed the resignation, and described his exit as the best decision, noting had the former NEC boss not stepped down, the laws of Liberia provide for his impeachment which the CDC would have pursued.

The United States Embassy near Monrovia has also released a statement stressing that whoever instigates violence to disrupt the peace will be held accountable.

While these give some hope to the sustenance of peace, the eye of the International Criminal Court needs to be on Liberia as the tension remains tense.


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